March 17th, 2009

Fishy Circumstances

5 A Day

I'm occasionally a little hazy these days about on which side of the ocean a given piece of information became normal to me. Over dinner with my academic big brother on Sunday, the subject of the "5 A Day" campaign came up. "It's American!" I declared. He thought it was surely British. We didn't look it up then and there, but continued to eat barbecued chicken with homemade bbq sauce from his family recipe, and chat with the gathering of friends. (Yes, there were also vegetables. There was also eventually round cake, appropriate for pi day observed when there is no pie.)

I still haven't traced the tag line back all the way, but I was right. "The National Cancer Institute initiated the
national 5 A Day for Better Health Program to reduce cancer risk in America." (Monograph in PDF on the subject here.) It says it did so sometime in the 1980s, starting in California (which is a major producer of fruits and vegetables). In 1991, the program was rolled out nation-wide in the US by the fruit-and-veg lobby, operating under the name of Produce for Better Health Foundation.

WHO's own website begins its involvement in a 5 A Day campaign only in 2002. That was the same year the campaign began in the UK, under the NHS (NOT under the fruit and vegetable lobby).

I'm sure its history is more complicated than this. I do notice that the NHS US has moved on to a different eat-more-fruits-and-veg campaign though, no longer "5 A Day" but "Fruits & Veggies Matter".